Tag Archives: Babe Ruth

“Spalding Threw a fit”

3 Jun

“The applause of thousands that once thundered across the baseball fields of the National League still echoes in the ears of a quiet man of sixty-three [sic, 68] who goes so unobtrusively about his simple duties in caring for a furnace at the plant of the New York Continental Jewel Filter Company at Nutley, NJ, that few know he was once one of the greatest figures in baseball.”

So, said Joaquin B. Calvo, writer for The New York World in 1922. The man he was describing was George Gore who played 14 major league seasons from 1879 to 1892:

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Calvo noted that Gore had done some catching before his major league debut and, “his gnarled and twisted fingers today bear mute testimony to this.”

Gore (or Calvo) knocked five years off the former player’s age, saying he was born in 1859 rather than 1854.

Gore repeated the story of having been “the first holdout” when in 1878 he negotiated his first contract with Albert Spalding before signing with the White Stockings. While the story was substantially the same as his other telling’s over the years, Gore added the detail that his asking Spalding for $2500 after initially being offered $1500 was the suggestion of Giants manager Jim Mutrie:

“He gave me some good advice, and one day I set forth to meet A. G. Spalding. Mutrie had told me to ask for $2500 and when I mentioned the figure Spalding threw a fit.”

Calvo said of Gore’s current activities::

“One of Gore’s greatest delights today is in teaching the young boys on the sandlots how to stand up at the plate, how to swing their bodies, and how to get that all important snap in the wrists as bats crash against balls. He is extremely active and has never lost his love for the game and, as he says, he tastes a little of the glory of yesterday when he plays with the youngsters and hears their cries of delight when he pounds out a home run.”

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Gore

Calvo asked him about being forgotten:

“Ah, well, it’s a busy world, he says modestly enough and the Cobbs and the Ruths of tomorrow will just as surely shove Babe and the Georgia Peach into oblivion, as they in their turn, have helped a thoughtless public to forget the diamond heroes of nearly half a century ago.”

Gore said of the differences in baseball in those nearly 50 years:

“The ball is livelier, but I don’t think the game is. In fact, I don’t think there is much science in baseball today as there was in the days when Anson and Spalding and others were putting their wits against some of the brightest minds baseball has ever known.”

Of Ruth, he said:

“I think he is a wonderful hitter, with a style all his own. I have never seen anything like it. There is a snap to his wrists when he hits the ball that accounts for the tremendous distance he knocks the pill. It isn’t his weight or strength; it is just his knack of hitting the ball.”

In closing, Calvo said Gore:

“(O)n days that he can get away from his furnace, he slips unnoticed into the stands at the Polo Grounds, the roaring applause of the mob blots out the picture of 1922 and brings back in sweetened memory those plaudits of the ‘80s that were for him alone.”

“There is a Fault in the Armor of the Greatest Slugger”

21 Feb

 

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In 1927, a News Enterprise Association syndicated series of columns promised readers the secrets to “Fooling the great batters.”

Of Babe Ruth, the article said:

“There is a fault in the armor of the greatest slugger of them all, the man who has inspired more fear in the breasts of more pitchers than any other hitter, present day or past.”

St. Louis Browns pitcher Hub Pruett’s success against Ruth as a rookie in 1921 was noted as the gold standard for shutting him down—in six appearances against the Yankees that season, Pruett struck Ruth out 10 times; overall, Ruth was 2 for 13 with a home run and three walks in his 16 plate appearances against the 21-year-old lefty:

“(Pruett)  found that Ruth couldn’t hit a slow curve ball which sank close to the knees…Time and again it came up, slow and twisting, so that you could almost read the Ban Johnson signature, and time out of mind the Great Ball Murderer swung and missed.”

The scouting report on Ruth:

“A curve which sinks towards the batter can be hit by the Babe, but one which sinks away is harder. That was the great Pruett discovery. It is still in the big leagues, but Pruett isn’t”

Pruett, was 14-18 over three seasons for the Browns with a 3.55 ERA, and had less success against Ruth in 1923 and ’24 than he had during his rookie season. He never faced Ruth after 1924. He spent two years in the Pacific Coast League then returned to the major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1927 and ’28; and in between two stints in the International League, he pitched for the New York Giants in 1930 and the Boston Braves in 1932.

“Take him out”

27 Jan

Stanwood Fulton Baumgartner pitched in parts of eight seasons for the Phillies and Athletics, then spent thirty years as a baseball writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Sporting News.

In 1945, he said his former manager Connie Mack:

“(I)s a kindly person. His 62 years in baseball have been marked by few displays of emotion.

“When the Athletics made their famous 10-run rally in the fourth game of the 1929 World Series he merely wigwagged his scorecard a bit faster. Even when Burleigh Grimes thumbed his nose at him in 1931, Connie merely smiled.

“Yet he once shook his fist at Babe Ruth—and that gesture cost him $5,000.”

Baumgartner said the story was about a young pitcher who, 1924 “(H)ad sold himself to Connie Mack,” after a successful minor league season in 1923.

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Stanwood Fulton Baumgartner

The pitcher, he said:

 “(W)asn’t a success. Every time he stepped out of the dugout fans would shout, ‘Take him out.’”

The pitcher “pleaded for one last chance,” before Philadelphia would have to pay the pitcher’s purchase price of $5000 if he stayed on the roster after May 30.

“That very morning, Mack made up his mind to send the young pitcher back to New Haven. He ordered a train ticket.

“Eddie Rommel was starting (the second game of a double header that day) for the Athletics. As Rommel started to warm up, the young left-hander went to his locker. There he found the ticket for New Haven.

“The young fellow felt a terrific emptiness. But he changed his shirt and went back to the bench.”

Early in the game, Baumgartner said Mack told the young pitcher he would take the mound if Rommel needed to be relieved.

The Yankees scored two runs in the fourth and sixth innings—including a Babe Ruth two-run home run—and Rommel was lifted for pinch hitter Paul Strand in the seventh, with Philadelphia trailing 4 to 1.

The young pitcher came out for the bottom of the seventh inning with the Athletics still trailing by three runs. He retired New York in order for two innings while Philadelphia scored four runs in the eighth on three singles and a Bing Miller home run off Sad Sam Jones.

With a 5 to 4 lead, Mack sent the young pitcher out for the ninth inning:

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Connie Mack

“Wally Shang, first Yank at bat in the ninth inning, fanned; then Everett Scott was caught at first for the second out (Baumgartner’s memory was faulty more than twenty years later, the contemporaneous account in The Philadelphia Record said Scott struck out, and Fred Hofmann was retired for the second out). The Athletics breathed a sigh of relief. Only one more man to go! But (pinch hitter) Joe Bush got a one-base hit. Then the left-hander hit Aaron Ward with a pitched ball; and Joe Dugan made first base after an easy grounder took a bad hop against Chick Galloway’s chest.”

Here again, Baumgartner’s memory was faulty.  Bush did single, but the next two batters were pinch hitter Wally Shang, who walked, then Dugan, who did not reach on error, but was hit by a pitch—Galloway’s error had come earlier in the game.

In any event, what Baumgartner recalled correctly was that the Yankees had loaded the bases trailing by one run, with Babe Ruth due up.

“As the Babe walked to the plate, a wave of futility engulfed the pitcher. Tomorrow, he knew, he would be back in New Haven—in the minors and oblivion.

With a shrug of despair, he looked at catcher Frank Bruggy for a signal. But Bruggy was looking for a sign from Connie to bring in another pitcher.”

Baumgartner said Mack stood up in the dugout, and the pitcher’s “heart sank,” but then:

“Connie did the most amazing this baseball fans had ever seen. He shook his fist at Babe Ruth. The pitcher watched that fist and a wave of confidence surged up within him. Now he saw only Ruth and his catcher.

“Bruggy signaled for a curve and Ruth swung and missed.

“Bruggy signaled for another curve. Again, Ruth swung; missed.

“The third pitch was a slower curve. Ruth swung with every ounce of his 220 pounds. There was click as the bat met the ball. But it was only the click of a foul ball. Bruggy smothered it in his glove for the third out, and the game was over.

“Hundreds of cushions whirled out of the stands onto the diamond. Connie Mack Draped his arm around the pitcher.

‘”Give me that ticket to New Haven,’ he whispered. ‘You won’t need it now.’

“That night Connie Mack made out a check to the New Haven club for $5000.

“How do I know? I was the pitcher”

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Baumgartner

Neither The Record nor The Inquirer mentioned the embellishments of Mack’s fist shake, the “Hundreds of cushions,” nor that Ruth’s strikeout was foul tip in their coverage of the game. He likely overstated his imminent return to New Haven as well—Baumgartner, although used sparingly,  had pitched well and won two games in relief before the May 30 game–—but what was true is he had learned to tell a good story in the intervening two decades.

“Smashing Circuit Clouts all Over the Island”

22 Apr

Edgar Forrest Wolfe was a cartoonist and feature writer who wrote under the pseudonym Jim Nasium at several Eastern newspapers including The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1907-1922.  In 1920, he told readers about “the Black Babe Ruth.”

Wolfe had seen Cristobal Torriente play against barnstorming major leaguers in Cuba:

“While Boston Babe Ruth is insisting that he will not be thumping home runs next season unless he receives $20,000 a season for the service (Torriente) is smashing circuit swats all over the island for a percentage of the gate receipts and doing it with such consistent regularity that one is led to believe he might be able to take ‘Boston Babe’s’ place.”

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Torriente

Wolfe said against the barnstorming major leaguers including Jeff Pfeffer and Leon Cadore of the Brooklyn Robins and Elmer Ponder and Hal Carlson of the Pittsburgh Pirates:

 “Torriente, ‘The Black Babe Ruth’ pasted the pellet for the healthy batting average of .377 (and) in six games against the All-Americans, batting against Jack Quinn, Bob Geary, and ‘Mule’ Watson, Torriente managed to compile a batting average of .408.”

Torriente, he said:

“(I)s the surest and hardest hitter Cuba has ever produced. He broke up one of the Pittsburgh games with a terrific home run belt off pitcher Carlson that traveled so far into right-centerfield that he had completed the circuit of the bases before outfielder Max Carey had reached the ball.”

When facing Bob Geary in another game, Wolfe said Torriente hit a ball ‘so far into the same pasture,” and:

“(He) loafed coming up the third base line and had crossed the plate on a slow trot before the ball had been returned to the infield.”

Wolfe said the home run gave the Cubans a victory in a game that appeared “hopelessly lost,” and the fans threw money at Torriente who “collected thirty-two dollars from the grass around home plate.”

Wolfe noted that in another game, Torriente homered twice, one to left field, the other to right “with equal force.”

He called Torriente “the perfect picture of a natural hitter,” and gave the final word on his ability to Frank Schulte who while watching the games in Cuba called Torriente “one of the best-looking hitters he had ever seen:”

“He looks natural up there, and he takes the right kind of cut at the ball that doesn’t swing at any bad ones. If they could whitewash that bird he’d help some big league club a lot.”

Connie Mack Calls “Bunk”

19 Apr

In the month leading up to the 1944 season there were concerns about there being a season.

Ty Cobb told an Associated Press (AP) reporter that “the baseball men have a mission to perform” by keeping the game alive during the war, even if “it is played by old men.”

Cobb said:

“If worst comes to worst, I’d get back into the harness myself to help preserve it.”

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Cobb

The thought took hold in some circles.

Nearly fifty-year-old Howard Ehmke, whose business making canvas tarpaulins was now making protective covering for naval warship guns, told The AP:

“I’ll be 50 in April and I’m pretty busy around here, but if baseball needs me, I’ll come running. I won’t say much about my arm, but I ought to be able to do something. The game was good to me when I was in it, and I feel I owe it something.”

The idea was shot down by baseball’s oldest manager.

Connie Mack said the idea was “all bunk.”

He told The Philadelphia Record:

“We don’t need them; we don’t want them; I doubt if any of them wants to come back, and they can’t play anymore anyway. I’d much rather keep the game going with 14 and 15-year-olds.”

Mack said he felt there were enough men classified as 4-F combined with those not yet drafted and those too young to serve to carry on.

And he didn’t spare any of the former greats who suggested they might be willing to come back:

“It’s a joke to talk about such men as Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, and Al Simmons making comebacks.

“We appreciate the fine spirit they have shown to help baseball, but they can’t play now. Once a man has passed 35 or 40 and then gives up the game for a year or so, he can’t come back.”

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Mack

Mack said he “pitied” the old-timers he watched play in a war bond game the previous summer.

“Great outfielders like Speaker—one of the finest flycatchers of all time—looked pitiable. I was afraid he would get hit on the head.”

Besides, said Mack, all fans cared about baseball, not the caliber of the game, and kids and 4-F’s could carry the load:

“They don’t look for super-excellence these days.”

“Ruthian and Splendid”

12 Apr

When Babe Ruth went to spring training with the Boston Braves in 1935, that it was wrong for the Yankees and the American League let him go to the National League was a subject of disagreement among two of baseball’s most famous personalities.

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Babe Ruth

Harry Grayson, the longtime sports editor for the Newspaper Enterprise Association, spoke to both in Florida:

“Rogers Hornsby says Babe Ruth was driven out of the American League by self-protecting business managers.

‘”I tried to save Ruth for the league at the minor league meeting in Louisville,’ explains the outspoken Hornsby.”

Hornsby, then manager of the Saint Louis Browns, said he and the Carle McEvoy, the team’s vice president asked American League President Will Harridge to help arrange for Ruth to come to St. Louis as Hornsby’s “assistant.”

Hornsby felt after a year working under him, Ruth would be ready to manage a team in 1936.

“’We could not pay his salary and asked that the league look after part of it, but nothing came of the proposition.”

Hornsby said after his effort failed, he couldn’t “understand why he didn’t and the Yankee job, and why the Red Sox, Indians, and White Sox passed him up.”

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Rogers Hornsby

Hornsby was just getting started:

“Business managers taking care of their own interests sent Ruth the National League, after a score of phenomenal and faithful years of service in the American.”

“The “business managers” he said, would have to take a back seat to Ruth as manager.

“’I suspect that is why Eddie Collins didn’t grab Ruth for the Red Sox, where he would have been the idol he will be with the Braves. Only a man of Tom Yawkey’s millions could have kept pace with Collins’ expenditures, which have failed to put the Red Sox anywhere in particular.’

“’I ask you: Which would have been a better deal—Ruth free gratis, and for nothing, or Joe Cronin for $250,000 [sic, $225,000]”

Hornsby would have probably altered his opinion after Cronin spent the next decade in Boston.

Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack took “an altogether different view,” of the Ruth situation:

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Connie Mack

“’Because Ruth was a great instinctive ballplayer it does not necessarily follow that he would be a good manager,’ elucidates Mack.

‘”Ruth was not forced out of the American League. He could have continued with the Yankees or gone to most any other club and played as often as he cared to.’

“’Ruth wasn’t satisfied with that, however. During the World Series he announced he would not sign another players’ contract. He wanted Joe McCarthy’s position as manager of the Yankees. If he came to Philadelphia, for example, he wanted my job. Well, it just happens that I need my job, and I have an idea McCarthy needs his.’”

Yawkey made no apologies for the money he spent to obtain Cronin, but said:

“I wish Ruth all the luck in the world. I hope the Babe has a tremendous season. He has the people of Boston talking baseball, which will react to the advantage of the Red Sox as well as the Braves. Boston needed someone like Ruth to offset the inroads made by (thoroughbred) racing in New England last year.”

Ruth lasted just until the end of May, hitting just .181 and embroiled in an ongoing disagreement with team owner Emil Fuchs over Ruth’s alleged roles as a club vice president and “assistant manager” to Bill McKechnie.

Ruth was presented with a signed ball by his Braves teammates and presented a parting shot at Fuchs that Paul Gallico of The New York Daily News called, “Ruthian and splendid.”

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Ruth said:

“Judge Fuchs is a double-crosser. His word is no good. He doesn’t keep his promises. I don’t want another damn thing from him—the dirty double-crosser.”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #30

30 Jan

Reddy’s Last Words

When Tom “Reddy” Miller, the catcher for the 1875 St. Louis Brown Stockings, died in May of 1876 (he was, depending on the source, somewhere between 24 and 26 years old at the time of his death), The St. Louis Globe-Democrat noted his handling of pitcher George Bradley:

“The brilliant manner in which the plucky little fellow supported Bradley last season is a matter of record.”

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Bradley

Apparently, according to The Chicago Tribune, catching Bradley was the last thing Miller thought about before his death:

“In his last moments he was delirious, and fancied he was at his place in the ball-field, facing his old pitcher, Bradley. His last words were ‘Two out, Brad—steady, now—he wants a high ball—steady, brad—there, I knew it; that settles it.’”

Altrock on Alexander, 1928

On June 11, 1928, 41-year-old Grover Cleveland Alexander held the Boston Braves to one run on nine hits in an 8 to 1 complete game victory. Nick Altrock, Washington Senators coach, told The Cleveland News:

“Boston got nine hits off Grover Alexander Monday, but got one run, which is why I claim Alex is the world’s greatest pitcher. He is as easy to hit as a punching bag, but you can’t knock him off the rope. Alex pitches like a busted chewing gum slot machine. You keep dropping your nickels in it but no chewing come comes out.”

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Alexander

Alexander was 16-9 with a 3.36 ERA for the pennant winning St. Louis Cardinals.

Baker’s Homerun Ball, 1911

Frank Baker’s game-tying ninth inning home run off Christy Mathewson in game three of the 1911 World Series quickly became legendary, and people began asking about the whereabouts of the ball.

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Baker

The New York Bureau of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch solved “The great mystery of what became of the ball” three days later:

“In the Brush stadium Tuesday, occupying a seat in the eighth row on the projecting line drawn through home and first, sat Mrs. Charles F. Hunt of 537 West 149th Street. Her husband Dr. Hunt, is a physician to the Yankees.”

According to the paper, just as Baker connected:

“(S)omeone got up in his seat just ahead of Mrs. Hunt and she could not follow the course of the ball. The man apparently tried to catch it.

“Then as Mrs. Hunt sat still the ball flattened the left side of her head with a blow on the left temple.”

Despite being dizzy, the paper said Hunt continued watching the game, “pluckily refusing medical attention.”

Hunt also refused to be taken out of the stands, telling her husband:

“I feel so hysterical that if I try to go out, I’m afraid I’ll create a scene.”

After the Athletics won 3 to 2 in 11 innings, Hunt remained in her seat for another hour, and when she finally returned home, the paper said she spent the next 24 hours ill in bed, and “the bump” remained on her head:

“What became of the ball? Oh, yes. Mrs. Hunt didn’t get it. The moment it fell from her head to the floor, a youth grabbed it.”

Gehrig on the Greatest “Team man, 1937

Dan Daniel of The New York World Telegram did his part to add to the Babe Ruth/ Lou Gehrig feud in February of 1937—just days after Ruth questioned Gehrig’s consecutive game streak, calling it “One of the worst mistake a ballplayer could make.”

Daniel visited with Gehrig in his New Rochelle home, and asked readers if their was a “War between” the two.

He said he asked Gehrig to name the all-time greatest player; Gehrig responded

“Honus Wagner the flying Dutchman…I say Wagner because there was a marvelous player who went along doing a grand job without any thought of himself. He was the team man of all time.”

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Gehrig

In addition to his snub of Ruth, Gehrig talked about his “greatest thrill” and the best pitcher he ever faced:

“’The greatest thrill of my baseball career?’ Gehrig furnished the reply without a moment’s hesitation. ‘It came when I hit that home run off Carl Hubbell in the third inning of the fourth game of the World Series last October…You don’t hit against very many pitchers like Hubbell in a lifetime and you don’t hit very many homers off the Hubbells in such situations.’ The Iron Horse continued.

“’But the greatest hurler I have seen was not Carl. My vote goes to Lefty Grove. When that bird was powdering them in at the top of his form, he was about as terrible a proposition for a hitter as you could imagine, even in a wild nightmare.’”

Spending World Series Shares, 1915

24 Dec

Frank Menke, in his national syndicated reports from Philadelphia and Boston, polled the 1915 World Champion Boston Red Sox who received a winner’s share of $3,779.98 for each player, to find out how their windfall would be spent:

“Whatcha gonna do with it?

‘”Now that you asked,’ spoke up George Foster, a Boston pitching person, ‘I believe I will join J. Pierpont (Morgan) and some of my other fellow millionaires in making that loan to the allies.’

“’I’ll slip mine into an old rock,’ said catcher (Forest ‘Hick’) Cady.  ‘I don’t trust banks.  I knew a banker once who borrowed $10 from me.  He still owes in.’

“’Cady’s experience doesn’t alter my trust in bank,’ said Tris Speaker.  ‘I’ll drag this roll back to Texas with me and put it where I’ve got some more.”’

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Speaker

Dick Hoblitzel and Jack Barry both said they were buying cars.

“Duffy Lewis will use his $3,779.98 in the purchase of a few more orange groves in California, his home state.

“Harry Hooper, also a Californian, will do likewise.”

Menke said Hal Janvrin and Mike McNally “the substitute kid infielders” declined to answer.

“’I’ve been reading so much about how a guy with three thousand copecks can run it up to a million in the stock market.  I’m going to take a chance with an investment—and I may not.’ Said Babe Ruth, the southpaw flinger.”

Heinie Wagner, Ray Collins, and manager Bill Carrigan all said they were buying land; Wagner was purchasing real estate in the Bronx, while Collins and Carrigan were investing in farm land.

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Carrigan, right

“Vean Gregg, who was a plasterer before he became a pitcher, told about a prosperous plastering business somewhere out on the Pacific Coast he wanted to buy.”

Del Gainer, Pinch Thomas, Olaf Henricksen, Carl Mays, Everett Scott, and Ernie Shore all planned to bank their money.

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Babe Ruth and Ernie Shore

“And when we approached Dutch Leonard, the portside flinger, and the last Red Hosed person in the roundup.

“’How about you?’”

“’Well, I’m gonna spend part of it taking a few more boxing lessons.  Then, when I’m fully conversant with the art of self-defense I’m going out and bust the noses of about two dozen of these ‘sure thing birds’ who want me to invest my money in wild cat schemes.  After that I’ll stow the money in a bank and watch it grow.”’

Lost Advertisements: Designed by Babe Ruth

16 Nov

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“Here they are for you fellows,” a 1927 ad for “The Babe Ruth Home Run Specials” from Reach:

“At Last–every fellow who plays ball can have the kind of mitt or glove he’s always wanted.  Not small size, shoddy gloves.  Not the cheap-looking, cheap-wearing kids that go to pieces in a single season.  But Full-sized Big League gloves.”

The Babe Ruth Specials retailed from $3.50 to $5.00  The catcher’s mitt was $8.

“I bet I’ll add a hundred points to my batting average”

24 Oct

Walter “Christy” Walsh was Babe Ruth’s agent and also operated the Christy Walsh Syndicate which employed several well known sportswriters, including Damon Runyon, Bozeman Bulger, and Ford Frick, to ghost write articles for Ruth and other players.

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Christy Walsh

In 1927, an article under Ruth’s byline appeared in several newspapers during the summer of 1927, as Ruth was in the process of hitting 60 home runs:

“Here’s a tip to hitters.

“Take it from one who knows.  There’s no percentage in going up there to the platter and swinging from your heels trying to park the ball over the fence.

“Home run hitting is fine and it gives you a real kick when you smack one, but 99 out of a hundred hitters ruin themselves when they try too hard.”

Ruth, or the Ruth surrogate, compared it to “pressing in golf.”

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Babe Ruth

And he said:

“The real hitter is the chap who steps up there with a short swing and plenty of wrist, and meets the ball.”

Don’t emulate him, he said:

“When you’re trying to improve your hitting take your tip from chaps like Eddie Collins, Joey Sewell, or Ty Cobb.  These fellows have real hitting form.”

Ruth said:

“I get paid for making home runs and hitting balls a long way.  So I have to stay up there swinging.  But if I didn’t, I’d change my form tomorrow.  I’d go up there flat footed like Eddie and Joey and I’d take a short swing instead of a long one.

“I wouldn’t make so many home runs but I bet I’ll add a hundred points to my batting average for the season.”

He concluded the lesson:

“Home runs are pretty things to watch and now and then they win ball games, but the real hitter is the chap who can step up there and get his two singles every game.  He’s the one to take as your example.”